Friday, April 11, 2008

When a Hybrid is not very impressive

General Motors seems to be having some success with it's revamped Malibu. It is well designed, a definite improvement and hopefully will be a turning point for the company. Though where I must put up my hand and say wait is when you read more about the Hybrid version.

I'm all for Hybrid technology but am yet to be impressed. The hybrid Malibu in my opinion is just strategic marketing and for those who buy it, merely a fashion statement. Referring to fuel consumption ratings, you can easily compare vehicles by model. In the case of the Malibu the difference between the standard 2.4L gasoline engine and the 2.4L hybrid is about 3 miles per gallon. In Canadian terms the standard 2.4L engine would consume 9.6/6.5 liters of fuel per 100 km travelled (city/hwy); whereas, the hybrid consumes 8.5/6.2L /100 km.

To bring this into perspective in terms of economics, the typical driver would save approximately $126 in fuel per year consuming about 140 liters less. All this for a premium of about $4,000 for the hybrid version over the standard.

The introduction of hybrid models is very important but while in this case the impact and savings can be argued to be negligible, it is providing options and awareness for consumers. I've always argued that fuel is still way to cheap to have hybrids make a real impact and at the same time, I am sure that saving 140 liters of fuel can be done with a lot less effort and expense than what it took to engineer, build, and market a hybrid version - and not at a cost of $4,000 to the consumer.

All I ask is that if you are considering a hybrid vehicle that you are aware of the true savings and costs, and that it is not being done merely for fashion or status.


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